Myths and Legends of the Great Plains

Page: 15

[Pg 47]



In the olden times, a hunter once shot at a large bird which was flying above him. It fell to the ground. It was so large he was afraid to go to it alone, so he went back to the camp for others.

When they came back to the place where the bird had been shot, thunder was rolling through the ravine. Flashes of lightning showed the place where the bird lay. They came nearer. Then the lightning flashed so that they could not see the bird. One flash killed a hunter.

The other Indians fled back to the camp. They knew it was the Thunder Bird.

Once the Thunder Bird, in the days of the grandfathers, came down to the ground and alighted there. You may know that is so, because the grass remains burned off a large space, and the outlines are those of a large bird with outspread wings.

[Pg 48]



The Sioux, or Dakotas, of whom the Assiniboins are a branch, pretend that thunder is an enormous bird, and that the muffled sound of the distant thunder is caused by a countless number of young birds! The great bird, they say, gives the first sound, and the young ones repeat it; this is the cause of the reverberations. The Sioux declare that the young Thunders do all the mischief, like boys who will not listen to good advice; but the old Thunder, or big bird, is wise and excellent; he never kills or injures any one!

[Pg 49]



Ye four, come hither and stand, near shall ye stand,[B]
In four groups shall ye stand,
Here shall ye stand, in this place stand.
[The thunder rolls]
Turned by the wind goes the one I send yonder;
Yonder he goes who is whirled by the winds;
Goes, where the four hills of life and the four winds are standing;
There in the midst of the winds do I send him,
Into the midst of the winds standing there.
[The thunder rolls]


[A] By Alice C. Fletcher.

[B] The “four” are the four winds.

[Pg 50]



The whole world is coming,
A nation is coming, a nation is coming,
The Eagle has brought the message to the tribe.
The father says so, the father says so,
Over the whole earth they are coming.
The buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming,
The Crow has brought the message to the tribe,
The father says so, the father says so.[C]


[C] “This fine song summarizes the whole hope of the Ghost-dance—the return of the buffalo and the departed dead, the message being brought to the people by the sacred birds, the Eagle and the Crow.”

[Pg 51]



He! They have come back racing,[E]
He! They have come back racing,
Why, they say there is to be a buffalo hunt over here,
Why, they say there is to be a buffalo hunt over here.
Make arrows! Make arrows!
Says the father, says the father.
Give me my knife,
Give me my knife,
I shall hang up the meat to dry—Ye´ ye!
I shall hang up the meat to dry—Ye´ ye!
Says grandmother—Yo´ yo!
Says grandmother—Yo´ yo!
[Pg 52] When it is dry I shall make pemmican,
When it is dry I shall make pemmican,
Says grandmother—Yo´ yo!
Says grandmother—Yo´ yo![F]


[D] Songs and comments as given by James Mooney.

[E] “When going on a buffalo hunt, it was customary among the Sioux to send out a small advance party to locate the herd. On finding it, these men returned at once at full gallop to the main body of hunters, but instead of stopping on reaching them, they dashed past and then turned and fell in behind. It is to this custom the first line refers.”

[F] “In the old days an Indian camp during the cutting up of the meat after a buffalo hunt was a scene of the most joyous activity.... Preparations were made for days and weeks ahead. Couriers were sent out to collect the neighboring bands at a common rendezvous, medicine men began their prayers and ceremonies to attract the herd, the buffalo songs were sung, and finally when all was ready the confederated bands or sometimes the whole tribe—men, women, children, horses, dogs, and travois—moved out into the buffalo grounds. Here the immense camp of hundreds of tipis was set up, more ceremonies were performed, and the mounted warriors rode out in a body to surround and slaughter the herd. The women followed close after them to strip the hides from the fresh carcasses, and cut out the choice portion of the meat and tallow and bring it into camp.”

[Pg 53]



In the days of the grandfathers, buffaloes lived under the earth. In the olden times, they say, a man who was journeying came to a hill where there were many holes in the ground. He entered one of them. When he had gone inside he found buffalo chips and buffalo tracks on all sides. He found also buffalo hairs where the buffaloes had rubbed against the walls. These were the real buffaloes and they lived under the ground. Afterwards some of them came to the surface of the earth and lived there. Then the herds on the earth increased.

These buffaloes had many lodges and there they raised their children. They did many strange things. Therefore when a man escapes being wounded by an enemy, people say he has seen the buffaloes in his dreams, and they have helped him.